Sarah Steelman is in hot water once again over questionable comments regarding Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, whom she is hoping to unseat in November.
Steelman, the former state treasurer who’s in a three-way race to take on McCaskill this fall, said at a tea party rally Sunday that she was “ready to punch Claire McCaskill out.” The comments were captured on tape and provided to TPM. In the video, a vendor at the rally painted “Steelman for Senate” on the candidate’s arms and then asked her to pose for a picture. Agreeing, Steelman flexed her arms and said she was “ready to punch Claire McCaskill out.” In the background, someone says, “yeah.”
Steelman’s comments at the Rally for Common Sense were not the first time the candidate has been tied to violent campaign rhetoric.
Earlier this month, Steelman was present at another tea party rally when a local activist caused a stir by insisting, “We have to kill the Claire Bear, ladies and gentlemen.” The man, Scott Boston, also said McCaskill was an “evil monster.” The comment was startling enough that Capitol Police in Washington, D.C. sought extra protection for McCaskill following the incident, both around her home and during her public appearances.
Democrats called on Steelman to condemn the remark. Instead, Steelman came to Boston’s defense. “I may disagree with the words Mr. Boston chose in his statement,” Steelman said in a statement, “but I understand his frustration and I emphatically support his right to express his views.” Steelman was endorsed by the Tea Party Express, the group hosting the event where Boston made the remark.
One of Steelman’s chief rivals, businessman John Brunner, issued a firm repudiation. “This type of rhetoric is unconscionable and I reject this kind of politics,” he said in a statement.
The first time Steelman’s name came up in the context of violence was after a flap over whether she supported the Violence Against Women Act, which is up for renewal in Congress. Asked about the bill at an event, Steelman said she was “not sure” what it was.
A video and picture of Steelman’s comments were provided to TPM by the Missouri Democratic Party. Both sides routinely send trackers to events where their opponents are appearing. The recording of the Steelman event is repeatedly blocked by a person holding a clipboard as the tracker tried to tape the incident.
The Steelman campaign did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.